Author: Richard Fortey
Publisher: Knopf/Random House
- Up to date yet futureproof
- Full of local color, analogy and anecdote
- A groaner here and there
- A lot to absorb
- Photos not always the best
- Personal treatment of geology infused with an expert's intimate perspective
- Wide range of topics, many treated masterfully
- Engaging prose suited to lovers of writing
- Takes geology seriously as part of human culture
"Earth" is as much a history of its science as a history of the planet, and it is a good deal travelogue as well. Geology is everywhere you are, but some places are more special than others. Fortey focuses on some that are expected--Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles--and others that may not be, like the Bay of Naples, Newfoundland and the Scottish wilds. All of them have deep significance in the progress of geology as it grew from a branch of "natural philosophy" to today's jack-of-all-sciences, now enjoying a golden age.
Fortey is British, the product of its universities, and an excellent stylist. Fans of the well-turned sentence, and those who savor allusions to English literature, will find much to enjoy. Geology instructors, who have an insatiable demand for analogies, will gain a whole new set here, some of them based on English cookery. Geologists will surely add some new places to visit for their life lists.
Fortey is masterful with his explanation of plate tectonics and the concept's history. He is superb in tying place and geologic time. His field descriptions are vivid. His explanations of deep-Earth science go far while restricting chemical formulas to footnotes and eschewing all equations. Here his efforts to entertain show a little strain, as in quoting Yeats's "Widening Gyre" to illustrate the breakdown of ringwoodite. But no one among us could do better, and the attempt is laudable. I would highly recommend "Earth" to anyone with a geology degree, and to anyone who wishes they had learned more geology in school.